Avatar and the power of social media

I’m loving the commentaries that have evolved around Avatar’s themes of exploitation of natural resources, imperialism and biological diversity.

Libertarian blogger Stephen Kinsella argues here that it underscores his viewpoint that the movie demonstrates that property rights are the only way to protect the environment. Interestingly this is the logic of the UN’s REDD carbon trading scheme or to give it its long name, the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. This is based – in theory at least – of forests having assigned carbon values and of local people having property rights over those resources. The “owners” are then rewarded for not chopping down trees.

Such solutions aren’t without their problems though. Aside for the more obvious problems of carbon credits – that they allow the industralised world to delay reducing their own emissions -  Global Witness point out in this report [PDF] that was published last October, this is an untested scheme that may well benefit Africa and South America’s kleptocrat rulers more than it does the environment, or the locals to whom this property has been assigned. Assigning property rights, suggests Global Witness, is part of the process of moving from an environment protected from logging, to a “sustainably managed” forest which allows logging to go ahead.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

ashdenizen: not bothered by parallels

The big new Christmas movie, James Cameron’s Avatar, which opened yesterday, has some striking green themes.

There’s deforestation: a truly massive tree gets destroyed. There's a threatened indigenous people: the home of the Na’vi tribe gets obliterated. And there’s a new-agey idea that that there’s a mutual thing going on between the people living in forest and the forest itself and there may even be scientific evidence (Sigourney Weaver tells us) of electro-magnetic impulses that allows the forest to act like a brain, communicating between its many constituent elements.

The baddies of the piece, of course, don't have such a sophisticated brain. What the US military has is muscle – a massive arsenal of weaponry which it aims to use ( ‘shock and awe’) to get the ‘savages’ moving out of an area where there they have discovered a very precious mineral called – yes! – ‘unobtanium’;.

This raises an interesting question. I assume you can't have a successful blockbuster movie that’s anti-American. So there must be plenty of people watching this movie who aren’t remotely bothered by the parallels suggested by the storyline.

Update: in this interview Cameron refers to the themes of imperialism and biodiversity and attacks the way America has ‘had eight years of the oil lobbyists running the country’. But he points out that anti-imperialism is American too. ‘You can take it back to the origins of America in a fight of rebels against an imperial dominating force.’ Except the rebels in question were hardly fighting on behalf of indigenous people.

via ashdenizen: not bothered by parallels.